Prep Basketball: Salisbury’s Shipp signs with George Washington
By Mike London
The 2A state championship game was Salisbury senior Shi-Heria Shipp’s lowest-scoring game all season.
It was also the game that convinced George Washington coaches she could play basketball in the Atlantic 10.
While Shipp scored only five points in a 56-41 victory against Graham, the 5-foot-10 guard demonstrated the defense and floor game that make her a potential impact player in Division I.
“I think that championship game is what I’ll always remember about Shi-Heria,” Salisbury coach Andrew Mitchell said. “Graham was expecting her to penetrate a lot and shoot a lot and instead she was making on-the-dime passes to her teammates. She loosened up their defense, got us some easy shots. Knowing college coaches were watching, she easily could have gone out there and said, ‘Hey, I’m going for MVP.’ Instead, she took what the defense gave her and helped us win a championship.”
Shipp was a four-year varsity player for the Hornets and a three-time all-county standout, culminating with Rowan County Player of the Year honors as a senior. Her Salisbury teams were 110-12. Her 1,274 points ranks fourth in school history.
Mitchell had seen Shipp play as a sophomore when he was coaching at Livingstone. He didn’t see her play again until after he was hired as Salisbury’s head coach, but he remembered she had a world of potential.
“I could tell she was a talent, so much range with those long arms and long legs,” he said. “And she very jumped well.”
Shipp didn’t always have height so she learned perimeter skills at an early age. She doesn’t remember any huge growth spurt, but she stretched out steadily.
“Starting out, I was like the littlest thing on the team,” Shipp said. “But then I grew inch by inch to be one of the tallest.”
Shipp and classmate De’Rya Wylie gave the Hornets an odd-couple combination that was hard to stop. Wylie is about three inches shorter than Shipp, but played in the post, while Shipp usually played on the perimeter.
Mitchell likened Shipp to Magic Johnson, the oversized point guard on the Showtime L.A. Lakers, his all-time favorite team next to the one he coaches now.
“Shi-Heria’s got an advantage on a lot of people with her height,” teammate Ashia Holmes said. “She can see a lot of things on the floor.”
But Shipp wasn’t seeing as much recruiting interest as expected most of her senior season. Salisbury usually got significant points from eight players so her 13.7 points per game scoring average wasn’t eye-popping for a star player on an uptempo team.
“Shi-Heria was kind of pressing some earlier this season,” Mitchell said. “The only advice I had for her was to be patient, get us to the state championship game and all kinds of doors would open for her. The important thing was for her to play her game, whether she scored five or 25.”
Shipp had ups and downs.
She broke a finger early, wrapped it and kept playing. She could have taken practices off but didn’t.
She sprained an ankle in late January and wound up missing three games, resting and healing for the playoff push.
“Shi-Heria was hurting, but when we needed her most she was out there playing on a bad ankle,” Wylie said. “She was great.”
Shipp’s defensive effort against East Davidson’s All-State post player Anna Freeman keyed Salisbury’s 26-24 victory in the regional final and got the Hornets back to the championship game for the first time since Shipp’s freshman season.
Then 10 different Hornets scored against Graham in the title game, proof that the sign in the Salisbury’s coaches office ó “A star can win any game, but a team can win every game” ó was right on the money.
Shipp shot 1-for-5 on field goals against Graham, but she contributed seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
George Washington saw enough versatility from the Hornet that it was ready to offer a scholarship.
“They made their decision from that game, and the key thing was Shi-Heria showed she could defend at three positions ó 1, 2 or 3,” Mitchell said. “Some can play offense at three positions, but it catches up to them on defense. She can be a huge asset in college because she’ll probably play the 2 or the 3 on offense, but she can do anything they ask her to do defensively.”
Shipp’s final decision came down to GW, South Alabama and Appalachian State, to whom she had given a non-binding verbal commitment earlier in the season.
Shipp made her official visit to metro Washington D.C., to tour George Washington recently and was impressed.
“The first thing we saw was the White House (a few blocks from campus),” Shipp said. “I met the players and coaches and everyone was really nice. It was a difficult choice, but it felt like the right place for basketball and my education.”
George Washington was 17-14 this season and made the Women’s NIT under coach Mike Bozeman. It’s a solid program, probably second to Maryland in the D.C. area, and plays an A-10 schedule that will allow Shipp to visit Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St. Louis as well as Charlotte.
“We’ll be going to California and to The Bahamas,” Shipp said. “That’s exciting.”
Mitchell is equally excited that Shipp has a chance to get a world-class education while continuing her hoops career.
“When I talked to Shi-Heria about doors opening for her, this is a door I didn’t expect,” Mitchell said. “This is a great opportunity. She’s just got to stay focused, play her game and graduate.”